"No Surprises" was released as the third and final single from the group's 1997 album OK Computer. It was accompanied by a music video that featured a single shot of singer Thom Yorke's head in...
A heart that's full up like a landfill
A job that slowly kills you
Bruises that won't heal
You look so tired-unhappy
Bring down the government
They don't, they don't speak for us
I'll take a quiet life
A handshake of carbon monoxide

With no alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
Silent, silent

This is my final fit
My final bellyache

With no alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises please

Such a pretty house
And such a pretty garden

No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises
No alarms and no surprises please


Lyrics submitted by piesupreme, edited by Peyman

"No Surprises" as written by Thomas Edward/greenwood Yorke

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

No Surprises song meanings
Add your thoughts

239 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +20
    General CommentIt could be applied to aging baby boomers who used to protest the government (You were so tired, happy, bring down the government, they don't, they don't speak for us) who have resignated themselves to high-stress jobs where they are subjected to heart disease or exposed to dangerous chemicals that are killing them (a job that slowly kills you), eating foods that clog their arteries and smoke and drink so that their body is full of poisons (A heart that's full up like a landfill), and they are slowly coming down with cancer, strokes, and heart attacks (some cancers have symptoms of bruises that don't go away and heart attacks and strokes can be brought on by blood clots blocking blood vessels and don't move), so they deal with businesses that poison the air (I'll take the quiet life, a handshake of carbon monoxide) such as the automobile industry. No longer arguing or protesting (Silent, silent). They may be on their death bed with a terminal disease caused by their lifestyle of the aforementioned or it could be their last time mentioning their dissent before taking in a life of pure acquiescence (This is my final fit, my final bellyache). They trade in the thrill and flavor of their life for the security of assimilation and in exchange for acceptance they get their house in the suburbs complete with a yard and 2.5 children (Such a pretty house, such a pretty garden). And they don't want any stirring up of their past excitement (No alarms and no surprises, please).
    Imani110on September 28, 2002   Link
  • +17
    General Commentthis song represents suicidal thoughts...he's thinking of fianlly ending it. No alarms no suprises...he doesn't have to deal with the shit that's been going on no more panic attacks from all the bad things that keep going off in his life.
    The part where he sings about the pretty house and pretty garden....everything LOOKS perfect...but it'll finally be perfect when he gets rid of the "alarms and suprises" and he can only think of one solution.
    i think this song is so sad...the music is floaty in a way...kind of like you're drifting away to you're death....
    or i could just be out of my mind...but it's how i see it.
    Pixiedust Junkeeon July 24, 2002   Link
  • +15
    General CommentSame ideas expressed in Fitter, Happier are expressed in this song. We're told to strive for some sort of ideal life, which includes getting a good job, being kind to everyone, finding a partner, getting married, having a couple kids, living in a quiet neighborhood in a nice big house, etc. But in Fitter, Happier the narrator(?) realizes that it's incredibly robotic to live this life. People are being used by those in power "like a pig in a cage on antibiotics"--being pacified with things like new phones and cool gadgets and houses while being sucked dry. On No Surprises, the narrator is realizing how this life is killing him slowly. In the video, his helmet is slowly filling up with water, drowning him. But he's so complacent with it. This is a good summary of the song. This boring, "perfect" life foisted upon us by some higher powers (not spiritual, but political, economic, etc. politicians and businessmen, perhaps) is not the way to live. But there is seemingly no way out but death. He'd rather die peacefully right now than live in this cage. While our lives are often shielded, we're in our own protective bubbles, or protective helmets like the one Thom wears, if we look a little harder we can see all the corruption, lies, manipulation, etc. that is going on in the world, often run by huge yet nearly invisible organizations, corporations, and 'leaders'. It's a very hopeless song because it reflects real life.
    PairOFishon February 09, 2013   Link
  • +12
    General Comment"A heart that's full up like a landfill,"

    A heart that is filled up with all of the rubbish that this world has to offer; with television characters who aren't real, with being able to afford the next-greatest BMW you've always wanted. So full up and concerned with these things that there's no room left for any real love...

    Kilgoreon January 09, 2002   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI think this song is about how as children or young adults we observe adults being tired and unhappy. Beat down by the world they are forced to live in. You say you won't end up like them you'll take the quiet life instead but just like everyone else you are forced to grow up and go to work and live a life that will lead you to be beat down just like everyone else. Once you see that this will be your future you have your final fit your final bellyache with no alarms and no surpises (no stress of doing the 9 to 5 and all the responsibilities) note the silence part too, it's the last time without alarms or surprises, the last time there will be silence. You give in (or up) and get a crappy job that you hate like everyone else and get the house and the garden but it doesn't matter because your still beat down like everyone else. A sad song about a miserable world that is too tired to change anything. Who has the time anyway?
    namenottakenon January 23, 2010   Link
  • +5
    My InterpretationI'm not quite into Radiohead but this song absolutely blew my mind and became one of my favs.

    I'd like to share with you an interpretation which unfortunately doesn't belong to me, originally written in spanish, let's see how good i'm at translating it.

    Interpretation:

    "We are born embedded within a social structure already assembled, whose axis is a system of objects around us, it seduces us withits goodness completely perishable. It's so distressing to realize that our very unique and finite existence is being aimed towards achieving goals so superficial such us living easily and comfortably. Does it really worth getting our life expectancy higher than ever if our steps in this world is determined by consumist intracendence?

    Eagerness to carry on a quietly life without surprises in a pretty house with a pretty garden is the fair reward this social, political and economic organization called capitalism reward us for our perfect behaviour? for being so obedient and disciplined people?. Each morning of each day, an army of workers gain streets to put at work a huge and anonymous machinery that seems to be runned by a non visible head. (because the key is to be unseen)

    The ideas verted in No Surprises widely exceed the politics of any particular country and reflex and perfectly describes the way societies behave. It's a picture of every day life."

    Argie88
    argie88on October 26, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General Commentwhenever i hear this song. i picture the ending of a movie. with a girl who either just took a whole bunch of pills and is lying on a bed with a canary yellow bedspread and the opening of this song plays as the camera spirals away from her up out of the shot (if that makes sense). or all of the above except instead of taking the pills she's just realizing her life.
    bluekitty2on April 13, 2002   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI think the basic message of the song is that the supposed perfect middle class life, where you live in the suburbs with a good job and a family, is something no-one would actually ever want, because it would be a damning, boring life of no surprises. The lyrics are someone with such a life realising he has been unhappy this entire time and that this is the reason why.
    -"A heart that's full up like a landfill", I believe means unexpressed feelings (held in by this socially conformative life)
    -"A job that slowly kills you" A job where everything is so scheduled and unsurprising that it takes the remaining shreds of excitement away in his new life, slowly taking away what makes it a "life"
    -"Bruises that won't heal" Perhaps the narrator was hurt in ways before their adult life, but isn't willing to show that (they seem to be saying that these "visible" bruises aren't going away, a problem) because that would distance themself from their friends and "ruin" their life.
    -"You look so tired, unhappy" This person, realising the hell of this life of no surprises, is now looking at their personality, thinking they have become something so different from what they were originally
    "Bring down the government, they don't speak for us" This was one of the many slogans that youth in the 1990's would be hearing, and Yorke probably included this as something of a reflection on the life of an adult, living in this time, who has a life of boredom.
    -"I'll take a quiet life, a handshake, some carbon monoxide" The person, I think, attempts to go back to his original way of believing that this life is perfect with the first phrase. With the second, "a handshake", he refers, I believe to deception. There a lot of images of handshakes in the OK COMPUTER album, which Yorke chose as symbols due to the way they are intended to show trust and truthfulness, but a person can easily "go behind" a handshake. The line, in this song, refers to the way he deceives people into thinking he sees the type of life they all share as perfect, like them, despite him having seen the hell it really is. He gives up hope in the last line, "some carbon monoxide", and contemplates suicide.
    "No alarms and no surprises x3, Silent" In the chorus, he is either committing or imagining a death through carbon monoxide poisoning, which would supposedly be slow and peaceful. Considering that, he sees the irony in that he is trying to escape the life of no surprises, but this method of suicide is a perfect symbol of the way that the life itself is slowly killing him.
    -"This is my final fit, my final bellyache" This may refer to the earlier line "bruises that won't heal", he has experienced "fits" and "bellyaches", possibly metaphors for the feelings of sadness, and these will both be felt physically in his death.
    -"No alarms and no surprises x3, Please" The narrator he also realises that his death will bring no alarms and no surprises ever, so perhaps being dead would be no different to the way he lives (this also goes well with the line "a job that slowly kills you")
    -The instrumental solo is a build-up to the climax, and I belief is symbolic of him dying.
    -"Such a pretty house, and such a pretty garden" He sees his life flash before his eyes, and thinks about the life of no surprises, about how it may have seemed attractive and "pretty" at first, but it's really all meaningless.
    -"No alarms and no surprises x3, please" Having seen his entire life, the narrator now begins to die, and the song ends with an empty, mystical feeling, showing his death.
    asdfguyon August 13, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIts about settling for the monotony of everyday life. 'Such a pretty house, such a pretty garden' is about settling down to a normal life, in a normal house, with a normal 'nine to five' job like a million other people. And yes it is about feeling fed up with this kind of life but realising it would be too hard to try and change it because you have no influence - the government 'don't speak for us'. The song itself is the narrator's 'final bellyache' - his final act of defiance against the way of life he has resigned himself to. He is saying 'ok maybe this life i have chosen is boring but what else is there? At least i'm safe from stressful situations (alarms and surprises) and i'm safe.'
    iamaweirdoon April 24, 2003   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is a representation of mankind's longing to escape the responsibilities of a competitive society. The individual Thom croons about is most likely a corporate cog with regrets about his job. He is driven to suicidal intentions and feels that his paradise can only be reached in heaven.
    Orgy Pordgyon May 01, 2003   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain